Donne and Dryden

  • A. J. Gilbert


The Dialectique of Pierre de la Ramée, published in Paris (1555), had a considerable influence on literary style in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.1 Something of this influence has been noticed in the scepticism of Spenser and Shakespeare towards the high and middle styles. But to understand more exactly the changes brought about by Ramistic logic, we have to consider first the earlier view that Aristotle took of the relation between language and logic.2 This view had been accepted throughout classical antiquity and the medieval period, and tended to support the rhetorical tradition of style as advanced by Cicero and Quintilian. Aristotle of course wrote at a time when the tradition of the three styles had not been developed in its fullest form. He took a broad view of the relations between language and logic; while he saw that language and reasoning were fundamental properties of rhetoric, he made certain general distinctions between different kinds of reasoning or ‘logic’. There was the ‘logic’ of science (demonstrative logic), used in formal disputations, where inductive and deductive syllogisms could be used to test the truth of propositions. Science, for Aristotle, described things necessarily true. There was also the ‘logic’ or reasoning of opinion, called dialectic; matters discussed in this context were probably true, but could not be demonstrated with certainty.


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  1. 1.
    Pierre de la Ramée, Dialectique (1555), (ed.) M. Dassonville, Genève, 1964.Google Scholar
  2. W. S. Howell, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500–1700, New York, 1961;Google Scholar
  3. W.J. Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue, Cambridge, Mass., 1958 sets Ramism in its European traditions.Google Scholar
  4. A. J. Smith, ‘An Examination of some claims for Ramism’, Review of English Studies, VII (1956), pp. 348–59;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. G. Watson, ‘Ramus, Miss Tuve, and the new Petromachia’, Modern Philology LV (1958), pp. 259–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 2.
    J. P. Thorne, ‘A Ramistical commentary on Sidney’s An Apologie for Poetrie’, Modern Philology LIV (1957), pp. 158–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 3.
    M. McCanles, ‘Paradox in Donne’, Studies in the Renaissance XIII (1966), pp. 266–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© A. J. Gilbert 1979

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